Helping Journalists: Look beyond Twitter

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Look beyond Twitter and Facebook, writers.
Blogger Jess Says This has shared some fantastic additional tools for journalists.
I know, I know… you’re barely keeping up with the day-to-day. But it’s worth a look to know what’s out there.
Try these out and let us know what works for you and why.

Jess Says This

Digital tools help produce quality content online, but it can be difficult figuring out where to begin. Below are 10 online tools that can help improve journalists’ reporting and storytelling, and engage their readers in multimedia. Data sets and social media backlogs can be daunting for any reporter, so these resources are helpful in that they help share, gather and handle large amounts of information and help journalists, especially those journalists who are struggling to get their name recognized. The App store and other tools offered to journalist’s show how the digital era has shaped journalism for the better, and at times, for the worse. It is staggering what can be done online, but at the same time, how do you choose what to use? There are too many apps to chose from, which can be overwhelming for most…especially those who are not that technologically-savvy, but are online due to…

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Lesson 9

Lesson 9-A:
Pro tip: If you are working at a newspaper, wander back toward the copy desk and ask for last night’s page proofs.
The desk will be likely be happy you cared enough to see what you may have missed. Usually found? Numbers of grammatical goofs, inconsistencies, first-reference misses and misspellings not caught by your editor. A good desk will hold all these proofs for about a month in a file system.

Lessons from a cub reporter

Don’t get mad when you are corrected by editors. You need to know the things you habitually do wrong and you should be grateful every time you are reminded to do something correctly.

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On newsroom diversity: Broader than coverage

The fact that newsrooms are predominantly managed and staffed by whites is fact. Whether that affects coverage is debatable.
But unless we posit the question, how can we ever hope to come to an answer?
The newsroom issue is just a segment of a much larger American issue… that with an overwhelming majority of our time spent in the workplace, our job becomes the place we most often connect with our peers. Diversity in everyday moments leads to better understanding, yet we segregate ourselves — in our workplaces, our churches, our neighborhoods.
If we as a country want to have a better understanding of our neighbors, we need to put forth the effort to know them, which requires seeing and speaking to them every day. A difficult task, if our workplaces are as homogeneous as our homes.
In no other industry is it more important to expand our diversity. In a community such as a newsroom, the people of which are under a constant reminder to be open minded and objective, discussion among peers of varied backgrounds has true potential for change.
One may argue that in dealing with sources, journalists are able to observe and reflect on the circumstances of another culture or race, but the source-reporter relationship is lopsided. A journo’s job is to listen. There is rarely space or place for opinion or argument and where there cannot be argument, there can’t be level discourse.
Again, the questions we need to be asking are why are our newsrooms so monochromatic and how can we establish a percentage of cultural diversity that better represents the neighborhoods we serve?
My own opinion is that we are well past the point of asking whether we should.

On editing: Our hearts ache, but you’d never know it.

Just a few months after I was hired to edit wire copy by the daily newspaper where I work, I came across an article that was so horrific that it provoked a visceral response.

The article described the scene of a Chicago house fire involving a family with young children. The mother managed to rescue one of her babies, but by the time she realized the other children did not escape the home, the blaze burned so hot that she couldn’t get back in to save the rest.
The trapped children were screaming.
“We’re burning!”

As I read the story, I kept hearing them screaming for help.
I heard them screaming that it hurt.

“We’re burning!”

Barely a cub in the newsroom and I began to cry at my desk.

I was overwhelmed with emotion… for the children… for their mother… for the neighbors who I pictured restraining a crazed woman listening to her babies’ screams… and for my embarrassment. My face was red and swollen not just from the terrifying nature of the story but from the knowledge that my sobs had drawn the eyes of my employer and, still, I couldn’t make myself calm down.
Soon enough, I felt my boss beside me, suggesting I leave my desk to gain some composure.
I stepped across the hall and let loose the well. I cried — half for the victims, half for myself.
I was supposed to be a professional. But I felt like a child.

Moments later, after my eyes had been thoroughly drained, my manager came into the room.
Meek from my actions, I gathered myself enough to describe the article and how and why it had affected me so physically.
He nodded his understanding. He knew.

But we can’t let it get to us, he said. We can understand it. We can relate to it. But, he explained, we have to separate ourselves from it.
We can’t do our jobs well if we can’t detach ourselves — and our emotions — from the subjects that we read or write about.

It will be nine years, this September, since I’ve cried over a story. And, although I’m certain my professionalism has benefitted from this learned detachment, I sometimes worry over my soul.

The other day I read about a young woman who, authorities said, laid her newborn baby girl on a roadway, doused the still-breathing child in lighter fluid and lit the helpless little one on fire.
The neighbors said they only realized the burning pile was a child when they suddenly heard it screaming.

More screaming.
More horror.
More emotion.
More dead children.

The human in me wants to scream, too.
The news person won’t let it out.